Is hemp oil the same as CBD oil?
Last year, CBD (cannabidiol) oil was poised to become the next big thing in personal care. This year, CBD is everywhere. There are currently over 1000 scientific studies of CBD oil in progress.
New applications of CBD and CBD oils are found every single day. But millions of consumers haven’t been told that CBD, CBD oil, and hemp oil aren’t all the same thing.
The essential distinction between hemp oil and CBD oil is not hard to understand. CBD is a naturally occurring chemical. Hemp oil is a collection of nutritional fats and other organic compounds also of natural origin that may include tiny, barely detectable traces of CBD.
If CBD is what you are looking for, CBD oil, not hemp oil, is the place to find it. But when you do want hemp oil and when do you want CBD oil?
Hemp Oil is a Great Source of Essential Fatty Acids
Hemp oil is mostly fat. It can be used as a carrier oil for essential oils applied to the skin in very small amounts.
It’s possible, for instance, to add a few drops of lavender oil to a quarter-cup (60 ml) of hemp oil to make a massage lotion. In this way, hemp oil is a lot like jojoba oil or even a vegetable oil you would buy at the supermarket.
Hemp Oil as a Food
Hemp oil can be used as a food. If hemp oil were the only fat in the diet, it would be an ideal source of both omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids. The body converts omega-6 essential fatty acids into hormones that stimulate the immune system.
What is in Hemp Oil?
The main omega-6 essential fatty acid in hemp oil is linoleic acid, also known as LA. The body converts omega-3 essential fatty acids into hormones that regulate the immune system, that keep it from destroying the body’s own cells and tissues. The main omega-3 essential fatty acid in hemp oil is alpha-linolenic acid, also known as ALA. Hemp oil is usually 52 to 62 percent LA. It is usually 12 to 23 percent ALA.
Cold-pressed hemp oil contains no CBD. Chemically processed hemp oil can break down tiny glands in hemp to release about 0.01 percent CBD, but the actual amount of CBD is variable.
Almost any company that sells hemp oil is selling a cold-pressed product. And even chemically treated hemp oil does not contain even that tiny amount of CBD unless the hemp was produced in a cool, cloudy climate.
The human body needs omega-6’s and omega-3’s in a ratio of about three to one. Hemp oil contains LA (an omega-6 essential fatty acid) and ALA (an omega-3 fatty acid) in a ratio of three to one.
Who Should Use Hemp Oil as a Food?
Hemp oil is a great stand-alone source of fat. It’s better for women than for men since the processes that use ALA are driven by estrogen. It’s not as useful for people who eat high-fat diets.
Most of the fats in the standard American diet (SAD) are omega-6’s. Not only do many people consume too much fat, but they also consume too much omega-6 fat. Simply adding hemp oil to a high-fat diet is not particularly helpful when the problem is too many omega-6’s for the amount of omega-3’s.
But women who limit the amount of fat they consume could benefit from using hemp oil as a food. And hemp oil is a great carrier oil for other botanical ingredients and a good moisturizer.
Labels for Hemp Oil Can Be Misleading
CBD oil is not a nutrient. CBD oil consists of a laboratory-tested number of milligrams of CBD in its own carrier oil (which could be hemp oil).
The important numbers for CBD oil are the milligrams of CBD, not the milligrams of omega-6’s and omega-3’s. CBD oil is, or should be, laboratory-tested for its CBD content. Hemp oil is not tested for CBD content.
What Hemp Oil “Strength” is Measuring
Many manufacturers take advantage of the confusion over the question of whether hemp oil is the same as CBD oil. Their products boldly and honestly state that they contain 5,000 or 10,000 or 25,000 “milligrams.” It can be very difficult to find the fine print that clarifies that these are milligrams of LA and ALA, not CBD.
But consumers assume they are getting a tremendous bargain and write glowing reviews about “CBD oil” or “organic CBD oil,” or “pure CBD oil” in products that contain no CBD. Websites index the reviews along with all the other product information so that when the next person looking for CBD oil comes along, the search engine returns the page for the CBD-free product even when the search term was CBD.
Hemp oil is a good food product. It’s useful as a carrier oil for skincare. It just doesn’t interact with the structure and function of the body in the same way as CBD.
What CBD Oil Can Do That Hemp Oil Can’t
CBD is one of a group of at least 113 naturally occurring in cannabis Sativa (the hemp plant) chemicals known as cannabinoids. These chemicals interact with receptor sites in nerves, in the skin, and in the immune system.
A useful way to think of a receptor site is as a kind of lock on the outside of the cell. CBD acts as a molecular key to open the lock. Sometimes activating a receptor site stimulates the cell to do more of something. Sometimes activating a receptor site causes the cell to do less of something.
Where CBD Acts in the Body
Unlike some other cannabinoids, CBD has very little effect on the structure and function of the brain. CBD does interact with receptors for some chemicals that we ordinarily associate with the brain, such as serotonin. CBD interacts with receptor sites in the digestive tract that also interact with serotonin.
CBD interacts with sites in the body that respond to a chemical called adenosine. The release of this chemical is triggered by the consumption of caffeine. Adenosine stimulates receptors that CBD relaxes.
CBD also interacts with sites that respond to a group of chemicals called vanilloids. There are vanilloids in vanilla, but they are naturally more abundant in chili peppers. CBD works through these sites in the same way as the vanilloids.
This function is very important in food memory. Fast food makers put tiny amounts of vanilla in ketchup and hamburger buns so people who eat Happy Meals as children remember how they felt the next time they eat a food containing a tiny trace of vanilla.
CBD has the same function at these sites — without the calories of a happy meal.
CBD and Your Skin
There are also receptor sites for CBD in the skin. What CBD does at these sites is possibly modify the process of inflammation. CBD may stop a series of chemical reactions that create compounds that cause inflammation.
This is more than just hydrating the skin, which is something that can be accomplished with hemp oil. CBD may relax the skin so it doesn’t bunch up in lines and wrinkles and doesn’t produce as much sebum. Whether relaxing the skin is a benefit, of course, depends on the desires of the user of the product.
A Final, Important Distinction
Hemp oil and CBD do very different things. They aren’t interchangeable. But it is also important to understand that CBD and CBD oil aren’t the same thing, either.
CBD is a compound that has many interesting interactions with the structure and function of the body. CBD oil is an oil that contains CBD. CBD plays its role in the body in very small doses. Mixing it with a carrier oil makes it easier to use.
Remember, not every reference to “milligrams” in an oil product refers to CBD. Effective doses of CBD are in the tens and hundreds of milligrams. Effective doses of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids in the hundreds or occasionally in the low-thousands of milligrams.
Don’t buy hemp oil when you are looking for CBD. Buy CBD or CBD oil — which you won’t find advertised on any of the major e-commerce sites — when you want to harness the potential of CBD.